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Winter is Coming: HBO’s Game of Thrones, seasons 1-6

No Spoilers
in these overviews

No Spoilers
in extended season reviews
(links below each brief overview)

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HBO’s award-winning show Game of Thrones, created and (mostly) written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, is based on the best-selling series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin. Though the show diverges from the books’ content and order in some places, as do all dramatic adaptations, Game of Thrones follows the major Houses presented in the book series — Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, Tyrell, Baratheon, etc — as its members war and scheme for power. At the center of their struggle is the ancient Iron Throne, to which virtually every player claims to have the right. Other themes explore family loyalty and obligations, love, spirituality, religious beliefs and intolerance, hubris, sexuality, morality, and the purpose of violence to achieve one’s goals.

Season 1

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Based on the fantasy novel  A Game of Thrones, Book 1 of the best-selling series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, season 1 of HBO’s Game of Thrones is set in the fictional land of Westeros, composed mainly of The 7 Kingdoms, where royal claimants and usurpers fight for the right to sit on the Iron Throne. Season One concentrates on three major families: the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens. Their stories become interwoven with their claims to the throne, and their loyalty to their ruler.

Love and Betrayal amidst Swordplay,
Dragons, and White Walkers:
Game of Thrones,
Season 1

Game of Thrones Season 1 is available for purchase for $19.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes (go into iTunes to purchase). (Pricing differences seem to be for SD versus HD videos.) The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Season 2

Based roughly on A Clash of Kings, Book 2 in George R. R. Martin’s best-selling series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire, HBO’s critically acclaimed and award-winning Game of Thrones continues its exploration of power, politics, family obligations, love, and betrayal, in the second season. As the battle for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms of the civilized world erupts once more, everyone now knows that “Winter is coming. The surviving members of the three major families — Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen — continue the quest for survival and power, this time amidst rebellions, uprisings, and war. They are joined and betrayed by members of various other Houses.

The Summer of Our Discontent:
Game of Thrones, Season 2

Game of Thrones Season 2 is available for purchase for $19.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Season 3

Based in part on the first half of A Storm of Swords, Book 3 of George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, created and written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the stories of the inhabitants of Westeros and the Lands beyond continue. Love, power, and betrayal are its major themes as the War of the Five Kings intensifies. The third season of Game of Thrones gets viewers more intimately involved with the peripheral characters, bringing them to the forefront. Though there are multiple, ultimately converging storylines, the excellent writing and powerful acting keep the viewers engaged without confusing them. Even the scene transitions flawlessly guide viewers from one character — or group of characters — to another, and back again. The acting is riveting, with some previously minor characters taking center stage, and some previously “evil” characters gaining the sympathy of the audience.

What Crawls Out of Nightmares:
Game of Thrones, Season 3

Game of Thrones Season 3 is available for purchase for $19.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Season 4

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Season 4 of HBO’s award-winning series Game of Thrones is based principally on the second half of A Storm of Swords, Book 3 in George R. R. Martin’s acclaimed fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Season 4 also includes material from Book 4, A Feast for Crows, and Book 5, A Dance with DragonsIn Season 4, the writers of Game of Thrones continues to explore its themes of love, betrayal, and power, on the familial and national level. The storyline is expanded to explore themes of loyalty, hubris,  spirituality, religious beliefs, religious intolerance, as well as the morality of violence. The principal families — Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, and Tyrell — remain, and their stories are deftly interwoven with those of new characters.

The Dead Can’t Hear Us:
Game of Thrones, Season 4

Game of Thrones Season 4 is available for purchase for $19.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes.  The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Season 5 

Game_of_Thrones_Season_5

Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, is adapted primarily Books 4 and 5 in George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Along with Books 4 and 5 — A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons — the writers returned to Book 3, A Storm of Swords, for additional content. They also had access to material from Martin’s as-yet unpublished Book 6, The Winds of Winter. Season 5 of the dramatic adaptation won a record number of Emmy Awards for a series in a single year: 12 awards out of 24 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series. Created and (mostly) written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the show’s writing, acting, and design are all brilliant, and Game of Thrones deserves every award it’s won.

Game of Thrones Season 5 unites many of the storylines that have been converging during the previous 4 seasons. The major families who started the drama — the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens — are joined with the Tyrells, the Martells, and the Boltons. The only remaining Baratheon, Stannis, is still waging war against the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Season 5 also takes one of Season 4’s major themes — religious intolerance — and puts it in the forefront of the drama. Although family loyalty still determines most of the characters’ actions, the quest for power is intimately intertwined with any family obligations.

The Last Thing You See Before You Die:
Game of Thrones, Season 5

Game of Thrones Season 5 is available for purchase for $38.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers. Many of the retailers have special bargains for purchasing seasons 1-5, including Amazon, GooglePlay, and iTunes.

Season Six

Season 6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones is based on the as yet uncompleted Book 6 in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, and includes a “significant amount of material” from the Books 4 and 5 — A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. The author provided a detailed outline to show creators Benioff and Weiss. The sixth season proved to have more weaknesses than the previous ones, and it may have been due to the fact that the show-runners were working from an outline, no matter how detailed, rather than culling the story from completed books. Still, this season had some of the most powerful moments of the entire series, some of which Martin will be hard-pressed to reproduce on the printed page.

The battle for the Iron Throne gets vicious as the major families  — the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens — are joined by other families — the Tyrells, the Martells, and the Boltons — the latter of whom either want to rule the Seven Kingdoms themselves or who want revenge for wrongs inflicted by the three primary families.

(The Good, The Bad, and The Dead:
Game of Thrones, season 6
detailed overview coming next week)

Game of Thrones Season 6 is available for purchase for $24.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers. Seasons 1-3 and 4-6 can be purchased from iTunes for a slightly reduced price. The entire 6 seasons are available on Amazon for $170.99.

Rated Very Mature for Graphic Violence, Explicit Sexual Situations, Nudity, Adult Content, and Adult Language.

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Losing Hodor: Game of Thrones, 6:5 Review “Hold the Door”

Spoilers,
Tear-Jerkingly Sad

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Last night, HBO’s Game of Thrones’ episode 5, “Hold the Door,” was much of the same talkity-talk-talk amongst characters that has thus far comprised season Six. In the unrealistic, deadly kind of dialogue that neophyte fiction writers err in, characters not only discussed — catalogued, more like — events that viewers already knew, but reiterated events that the other characters themselves were already familiar with.

Considering the crisp and snappy dialogue in the first five seasons of Game of Thrones, I been taken aback with the duller-than-dull dialogue that’s littering season 6 episodes, delaying any important action and completely devoid of character development. Last night, yawning through another Tyrion-Varys recounting of past events, this time with some new Red Witch, I decided that the show’s creator-writers, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, must have gotten much more of their dialogue directly from George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire than I originally realized.

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While that’s certainly a compliment to best-selling author George Martin, it’s rather a shame for Game of Thrones. Martin failed to complete the highly anticipated sixth novel in the series, providing HBO show-runners with a detailed outline instead. I’ve said repeatedly in these posts and on the Twitter that Martin’s outline seems to have overwhelmed the show’s writers. It also seems to have denied them of the fine dialogue — which must reveal the characters’ natures, relationship, history, and conflict to be effective — that has been a hallmark of the show.

In each of the episodes this season, any really important action has been delayed until the final scene. From Melisandre’s removing her “magical” necklace and revealing that she is a withered crone rather than the sex-pot beauty who’s been seducing men all over Westeros,

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to Jon Snow’s coming back to life after he was betrayed and murdered by his comrades of the Night’s Watch;

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from Daenerys’ burning and killing all the Khals and emerging, once again, unburnt from the conflagration;

to Rickon’s being captured and turned over as a hostage to the sadistic Ramsay Bolton;

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Game of Thrones has been ending each show with a Bang! of monumental proportions.

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“Hold the Door” was no exception: its stunning final sequence with Bran, Meera, Hodor, and the White Walkers, gave viewers the shocks and the emotional devastation that the show is known for.

(If you didn’t yet see “Hold the Door,” do not continue to read this post, which is nothing but one big Spoiler, Very Horrific and Tear-Jerkingly Sad.)

Having finally found the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow, above L) in the Far North beyond the Wall, the youngest son of the House of Stark, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, above, center) has been having visions of events prior to the present, leading viewers to speculate that we were going to be given new information about some of the series’ characters. Last night’s final scene fulfilled those predictions. To viewers’ dismay, horror, and grief, we learned that Bran’s continual selfishness led to the demise of one of the most loved and lovable characters in the series: Bran’s bodyguard Hodor (Kristian Nairn).

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Ever since young Bran spied the royal Lannister Twins, Jaime and Cersei, having incestuous sexual relations and was thrown from the tower window by Jaime, the crippled Bran has been accompanied by his faithful companion Hodor. A big, affable, somewhat dim-witted fellow, Hodor, for reasons unknown to characters in the show and to viewers, was never capable of saying anything other than “Hodor,” though he was able to follow instructions. Hodor also seemed very fond of Bran, his brother Rickon, and their guide Meera (Ellie Kendrick).

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Many of Bran’s visions since he found the Three-eyed Raven have involved himself and his brothers when they were younger, as well as the young Hodor, who was called Wylis (Sam Coleman).

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To Bran’s surprise, the young Hodor-Wylis is capable of speaking, of training with swords with the young Stark brothers, and is a belovèd son to his mother. Nothing has been revealed about why Hodor became simple-minded, able to say nothing other than “Hodor.”

After Bran had a vision in which he saw an army of White Walkers approach the underground caves where he, Meera, and Hodor have been hiding, the Three-eyed Raved told Bran he must leave.

Like, yesterday, Bran-Boy.

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Apparently, because the White Walker (above) grabbed — and permanently marked — Bran’s wrist, the White Walker would now have the ability to enter their hiding place and kill its inhabitants.

And that is exactly what he did.

Once inside the underground or mountain labyrinth, the White Walkers proceeded to attack the Children of the Forest, the Three-eyed Raven, Bran, and his companions.

(In a surprise Reveal, the Children of the Forest admitted to having “created” the White Walkers by killing the men who first invaded and destroyed their land.) Despite having made the White Walkers by killing men, the Children of the Forest defended Bran from the Blue-eyed Zombies.

Meera screamed repeatedly at the unconscious Bran — who was having yet another vision of his childhood — that they “needed Hodor” to help them fight the White Walkers. Bran then sent his spirit into Hodor’s body, as he has done in the past, so that Hodor could fight for them.

Surprisingly, Bran, in the vision, also occupied Hodor-Wylis in the past. (Please don’t ask me how: I’ve never been able to figure out any of the time-traveling stories, like Twelve Monkeys or Terminator, where a character is himself, his father, his son, etc.) Though, technically, when he was younger, Bran had not mastered the ability to put himself into another animal’s or person’s body, Hodor-Wylis’ eyes turned white as Bran also went into the younger Hodor’s body.

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In a typically self-centered move, Bran stood there and watched — listening to Meera, in the future-present, scream instructions to simple-minded Hodor as she attempted to save Bran from the White Walkers. To Hodor-Wylis’ mother’s horror and consternation, young Hodor collapsed and seemed to be having a seizure.

Bran looked on, rather disinterestedly, I thought, but then, that’s Bran’s nature: he’s interested in himself and his own survival; he appears to regard everyone else as existing only to ensure his survival, improve his own life, and even alleviate his boredom. (He’s also often filled with self-pity concerning his crippled state, but that wasn’t in last night’s episode.)

In fact, it was while the Three-eyed Raven was off in a vision of his own in “Hold the Door” that Bran awoke, and, in what seemed to be a fit of boredom, grabbed some bones lying in the cave, and proceeded to have the fatal vision of the White Walkers that enabled them to grab Bran’s wrist which allowed them to enter the hideout.

In the past, in the courtyard of the House Stark, Bran could hear Meera screaming to Hodor-in-the-present “Hold the door” — and that’s when, with a sudden catch in my throat, I realized what was going to happen — while young Hodor-Wylis convulsed on the ground, shouting, in return, “Hold the door.”

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Bran just stood there, listening to Meera in his present, while vision-observin and listening to Hodor-Wylis in his past. Bran’s selfishness was extremely apparent in that scene, and I’m guessing that most viewers’ sympathy and affection poured out toward Hodor, in both time periods, not toward Bran.

 Meera pushed or pulled Bran in the sled, away from the rampaging White Walkers, repeatedly shouting “Hold the Door” to the faithful Hodor.

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Meera shouted over and over in the present, while Hodor-Wylis, in his seizure, shouted over and over in the past. (And then, I admit, Bran seemed to feel something like empathy or sadness for the young Hodor as he shouted “Hold the Door” in the past.)

In the most powerful and heart-wrenching scene of the entire sixth season, “Hold the Door, Hold the Door, Hold Door, Hold Door” eventually, and tragically, became “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor.”

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Until the loving, faithful, innocent Hodor was killed by the White Walkers.

And viewers wept.

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The Last Thing You See Before You Die: GAME OF THRONES, Season 5, Review

No S5 Spoilers

Game_of_Thrones_Season_5

Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, is adapted primarily Books 4 and 5 in George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Along with Books 4 and 5 — A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons — the writers returned to Book 3, A Storm of Swords, for additional content. They also had access to material from Martin’s as-yet unpublished Book 6, The Winds of Winter.

Season 5 of the dramatic adaptation won a record number of Emmy Awards for a series in a single year: 12 awards out of 24 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series. Created and (mostly) written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the show’s writing, acting, and design are all brilliant, and Game of Thrones deserves every award it’s won.

Season 5

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Season 5 of Game of Thrones unites many of the storylines that have been converging during the previous 4 seasons. The major families who started the drama — the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens — are joined with the Tyrells, the Martells, and the Boltons. The only remaining Baratheon, Stannis, is still waging war against the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Season 5 also takes one of Season 4’s major themes — religious intolerance — and puts it in the forefront of the drama. Although family loyalty still determines most of the characters’ actions, the quest for power is intimately intertwined with any family obligations.

The Lannisters

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Cersei (Lena Headey, above R) competes with Margery (Natalie Dormer, below)

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for the affection of, and power over, King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), Cersei’s youngest son.

In an attempt to regain her political power and to unseat Queen Margery, Cersei arms the religious Zealots known as the Sparrows, and tries to manipulates their Machivelian leader, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). But is he as devout as he seems?

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Fearing for his daughter’s safety, Cersei’s twin Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) travels to Dorne

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in order to bring their daughter Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free, below L) home to King’s Landing.

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A complication arises due to the fact that she has fallen in love with Prince Trystane (Toby Sebastien, above R), to whom she is betrothed. Can he save Mycella’s life without risking his own?

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With the help of Varys, the youngest Lannister son, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), has escaped from King’s Landing. He goes to Mereer in an attempt to find Daenerys and join her cause to reclaim the Iron Throne.

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Before Tyrion can reach Daenerys, however, the exiled Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen, above L) captures Tyrion and holds him for ransom. Will Tyrion be able to escape his fate once again?

The Starks

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Jon Snow (Kit Harington) becomes Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and rivalries are fierce, especially since he wants to help the Wildlings reach safety, causing other Men of the Night’s Watch to question his loyalty, just as the Wildlings do. Where is Jon Snow’s real loyalty?

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Sansa (Sophie Turner) continues to be manipulated by her uncle-in-law, Petyr “LittleFinger” Baelish (Aiden Gillen),

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who aranges a marriage between Sansa and her family’s enemy, the violent and sadistic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon).

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For help escaping, Sansa looks to the former ward of the Stark family, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen, below L), now called “Reek,” but does Theon even remember who Sansa is?

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Arya (Maisie Williams) arrives at the House of Black and White,

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where she wishes to learn how to become one of the Faceless Men, and is reunited with Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Walschiha).

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Sansa is told that she will have to give up all her earthly possessions — even her sword, Needle, the symbol of her family and its love — in order to enter the House. She can change her appearance, but can she give up her plans for revenge?

Meanwhile, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) is still looking for Arya and Sansa so that she can keep her word to Lady Stark, their mother. Will she save either of them?

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The Targaryens

In a storyline that’s become increasingly socio-political, Danaerys (Emilia Clarke) rules the freed slaves of Mereen as well as the members of The Unsullied, a slave army whom she has liberated.

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When she attempts to administer justice — by being as violent as the former slave owners — a masked group of rebels, called The Sons of the Harpy, kill members of her army and try to kill her. Should she stay in Mereen and rule, or continue her quest for the Iron Throne?

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Danaerys’ dragons have become far too large and powerful for her to control, which saddens and alarms her. How will she rule Mereen or take back the Iron Throne without them?

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The Tyrells

Now that Margery (Natalie Dormer) is Queen, playing a dangerous game with Cersei,

her grandmother Olenna (Diana Rigg, below) competes with Cersei for power. Additionally, Olenna must maneuver to keep her family safe. Who will win this mortal political struggle?

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The Baratheons

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Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and his family are the only remaining Baratheons. Determined to become King in place of his murdered brother Robert, Stannis ignores the advice of his Hand, Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham, below R),

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instead listening to the prophesies of the Zealot RedWoman (i.e., prophet, seer, witch) Melisandre (Carice van Houten).

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She asks him to pay the ultimate price for the throne.

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Will Stannis pay it?

The Boltons

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Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton, above L) and his son Ramsay (Iwan Rheon, above, center) are Wardens of the North, occupying the Stark ancestral home, Winterfell. They bolster their position with an arranged marriage with Sansa Stark. When Roose tells his formerly illegitimate son Ramsay that his new wife (above L) is pregnant, Ramsay fears that his own position will be undermined by the prospective heir. What action will he take?

The Martells

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The ruling family of Dorne, the House Martell (pictured above) plot to revenge the death of their prince Oberon, who was killed in combat defending Tyrion, of the House Lannister. Will they punish the innocent Princess Myrsella for her grandfather’s treachery?

The One True God

In seasons 4 and 5, the “One True God” has almost become a character in his own right, as the Old gods and the New, through their followers, compete for power. Unfortunately, too much of that power is earthly and political, rather than spiritual, leading to violence and intolerance. Which of the many gods will win?

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The Night’s Watch

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With Jon Snow (Kit Harington, above L) as the new Lord Commander, the men of the Night’s Watch must prepare for an invasion of the Wildlings who live North of The Wall. Jon wants to save the Wildlings, if only to help in the battle against the dread White Walkers.

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Jon’s friend Sam (John Bradley, below R) has already become attached to the Wildling Gilly (Hannah Murray, below L) and her infant son, whom he rescued.

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Now he, and his other brothers, must decide if they will follow Jon or declare him a traitor.

Caveat Fantasia

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I have to admit, once again, that I am not a big fan of fantasy, either in books or in films, and that a drama that has too many paranormal elements or characters can distance me emotionally, simply because the characters are not real. Game of Thrones really amps up the fantasy elements in Season 5. There are White Walkers,

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Wights (skeletons who come up out of the ground and fight with the White Walkers), 

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this guy here, who looks like a White Walker and seems to control the dead, but confuses me with the crown-like points on his head. He’s The Night King, I believe.

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Fights involving too many of these dudes becomes an excuse for CGI effects and action scenes in which I have no emotional investment. Because, you know, half the characters aren’t even human beings, so I don’t care what happens to them.

Still, there were the Giants, some of whom had a droll sense of humor,

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and the Dragons,

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which were total awesomeness.

Game of Thrones Season 5 is available for purchase for $38.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers. Many of the retailers have special bargains for purchasing seasons 1-5, including Amazon, GooglePlay, and iTunes.

Rated Mature for (sometimes graphic) Violence, Sexual Situations, Nudity (sometimes full frontal, male and female), Adult Content, and Adult Language.

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The Dead Can’t Hear Us: GAME OF THRONES, season 4, Review

No S4 Spoilers

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Created and written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, season 4 of HBO’s award-winning series Game of Thrones is based principally on the second half of A Storm of Swords, Book 3 in George R. R. Martin’s acclaimed fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Season 4 also includes material from Book 4, A Feast for Crows, and Book 5, A Dance with Dragons.

Season Four

The writers of Game of Thrones continue to explore the themes of love, betrayal, and power, on the familial and national level. The storyline is expanded to explore themes of loyalty, hubris,  spirituality, religious beliefs, religious intolerance, as well as the morality of violence. The principal families — Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, and Tyrell — remain, and their stories are deftly interwoven with those of new characters.

The Lannisters

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Though twins Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey) are reunited, their relationship is strained, and not only because Jaime has lost his hand.

Cersei is intensely jealous of Jaime’s relationship with his knight-escort, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who has made an oath to find Sansa and Arya Stark in order to return them to their mother, Lady Catelyn Stark.

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Family patriarch Tywin (Charles Dance) and son Jaime clash over Jaime’s position in and responsibility to the family. Additionally, the political marriages arranged by Tywin are making everyone unhappy.

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The youngest Lannister son Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), has been coerced into marrying hostage Sansa Stark, and is accused of a crime he insists he did not commit.

What will happen to the members of House Lannister as they turn on each other, exposing their weakness for others to exploit?

The Starks

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The Red Wedding has reduced the number of living Starks dramatically, leaving Sansa (Sophie Turner) in King’s Landing, forced to marry Tyrion Lannister, yet still threatened by King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).

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Her younger sister Arya (Maisie Williams, above L), previously hiding amongst thieves, outlaws, and murderers, is kidnapped by Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann, above R), who plans to take Arya to her Aunt’s home for ransom.

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Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) continues his dangerous journey North. He is attempting to go Beyond The Wall in order to discover the meaning of his prophetic dreams. On the way, he learns that he is a Warg (also referred to as SkinChangers): someone who can put his mind into the bodies of animals. But, because he’s crippled, he likes the freedom of being in animals so much, his companions fear he will become trapped in one.

Who, of the House Stark, will survive?

The Targaryens

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Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) dragons are getting too big for her to control, which saddens and alarms her. While she is building an army comprised of freed slaves, she runs afoul of their former masters as well as of her own military advisors, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen, below L) and Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney, below, center).

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Her advisors fear that, by sacking cities and murdering slave owners, Daenerys is becoming like the wealthy group of people she claims to despise. Will she listen to them, or will they have to rebel against her themselves?

The Baratheons

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With the help, black magic, and guidance of the witch Melisandre (Carice van Houten, above) Stannis (Stephen Dillane, below, center) continues to battle with the Lannisters for possession of the Iron Throne. Does he have a chance to claim it?

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The Tyrells

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Though Margery (Natalie Dormer, above L) is clever at handling and seducing the male members of the Lannister family, her Grandmother Oleanna (Diana Rigg, above R) is the true power-broker in the House Tyrell. Manipulative, subtle, and vicious, Oleanna is both protective and extremely dangerous. Is she a match for all the Lannisters combined?

The Greyjoys

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Held prisoner  by someone he does not recognize, Theon (Alfie Allen) begins to crack under savage torture. He doesn’t know whether the Stark family is punishing him for his betrayal, or whether his own father is causing him to be tortured for disobeying orders during the War. Will he survive the torture long enough to find out?

The Boltons

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Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton, above L) has been appointed Warden of the North by Tywin Lannister. He wants to expand his territory in order to have more power. His illegitimate son Ramsay (Iwan Rheon, above, center) attempts to prove himself worthy of the family name, by any means necessary. How far is Ramsay willing to go to become a Bolton?

The Martells

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The Martells of Dorn, led by Oberon (Pedro Pascal, above L) are introduced as relatives of the former Queen, who was murdered by the Lannisters when they usurped the Iron Throne. The Martells are, understandably, planning revenge. Do they want the Iron Throne themselves, or do they just want to punish the Lannisters?

The Men of The Night’s Watch

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Much of season 4 is spent exploring the stories of the Men of the Night’s Watch, including Jon Snow (Kit Harington, above L), who has joined the Wildlings. Led by their self-proclaimed King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds, above R), the Wildlings plan on attacking the Wall so that they may travel further South, into the Seven Kingdoms.

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The Men of the Night’s Watch must fight not only the Wildlings, but the re-animated corpses known as the White Walkers,

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Giants, who fight for the Wildlings,

and mammoths, which the Giants ride into Battle.

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There is also a monster who turns babies, abandoned in the woods as offerings “to the gods,” into NightWalkers.

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The only paranormal beings that the Night Watch does not encounter in season 4 are the Wights: skeleton warriors buried under the ice and snow, who come out of the ground and attack Brandon Stark and his companions.

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The Men of the Night’s Watch do not even know how many different enemies they have. How can they prepare for a battle with all of them?

Though I was slightly alarmed by the introduction of so many minor families and characters, I gradually was able to figure them out. This was not, in fact, because I’ve read all the books in the Martin series, since I cannot remember anything other than the major characters and plot events. Rather, my ability to follow the interconnecting plots and the various characters was due more to the flawless transitions from scene to scene in the show itself. Sansa, for example, might be mentioned by Cersei when talking to her brother Tyrion: next we see Sansa. Also, each episode tends to begin in the same dramatic scene where the previous one left off. This kind of tight writing keeps viewers from being confused while allowing them to become familiar with the characters and their stories at a reasonable pace.

Game of Thrones Season 4 is available for purchase for $19.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes.  The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Rated Very Mature for Graphic Violence, Explicit Sexual Situations, Nudity, Adult Content, and Adult Language.

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What Crawls Out of Nightmares:
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The Last Thing You See Before You Die:
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What Crawls Out of Nightmares: GAME OF THRONES, Season 3, Review

No S3 Spoilers

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Based in part on the first half of A Clash of Kings, Book 3 of George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, created and written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the stories of the inhabitants of Westeros and the Lands beyond continue. Love, power, and betrayal are its major themes as the War of the Five Kings intensifies. The third season of Game of Thrones gets viewers more intimately involved with the peripheral characters, bringing them to the forefront.

Season 3

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Though there are multiple, ultimately converging storylines, the excellent writing and powerful acting keep the viewers engaged without confusing them. Even the scene transitions flawlessly guide viewers from one character — or group of characters — to another, and back again. The acting is riveting, with some previously minor characters taking center stage, and some previously “evil” characters gaining the sympathy of the audience.

The Lannisters

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The head of House Lannister, Tywin (Charles Dance, above L) fights the rebels, takes his position as the Hand of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson, above, center), and brokers political marriages for his daughter Cersei (Lena Headey, above R) and his youngest son Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, below L).

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The eldest son of the House Lannister, Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, below L), accompanied by the Knight, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie, below R), struggles to return to King’s Landing to be reunited with his family.

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Tywin’s grandson, King Joffrey, becomes more unmanageable as his latent violent tendencies surface.

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Who will rule in King’s Landing? The Lannisters or the Tyrells?

The Starks

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Robb (Richard Madden) — the King of the North — is winning every battle against Tywin and the House Lannister, yet he cannot seem to win the war. When Lady Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) sets hostage Jaime Lannister free in an attempt to bargain for her daughters, her son Robb declares her a traitor.

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 Robb further isolates himself from his own military forces by breaking his oath to one of his Bannermen, Lord Walder Frey, causing enmity within the ranks and setting the stage for unforseen difficulties. Eventually, Robb needs the help of his mother’s brother, Edmure (Tobias Menzies) to try and solve these problems.

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Sansa (Sophie Turner), now abandoned by King Joffrey but not permitted to leave the capitol, tries to maneuver the dangerous political environment while staying out of Joffrey’s increasingly cruel grasp.

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Hunted by the House Lannister as well as by anyone who thinks he can profit from ransom, Arya (Maisie Williams, below, center) hides among runaways, thieves, and murderers as she travels to her home in the north. She pretends to be a boy: a dangerous charade for a girl too young to defend herself.

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Despite warnings from the Wildling Osha, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), accompanied by his younger brother, treks toward the North beyond the Wall in an attempt to understand and fulfill his prophetic dreams.

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The members of Stark House are fighting for survival, but each person’s survival might endanger another’s in the same family.

The Targaryens

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With her dragons growing, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is still raising an army so that she can return to Westeros and claim the Iron Throne of her father. Betrayed by virtually everyone she encounters, she must learn whom she can trust, if anyone. Her dragons, once thought extinct, are coveted by virtually everyone who wants ultimate power. Can Daenerys retake the throne?

The Baratheons

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With the help of the witch Melisandre (Carice van Houten), Stannis uses black magic to murder his younger brother Renly and to restore his military standing. Stannis (Stephen Dillane, below) is willing to commit any atrocity in order to sit on the Iron Throne. But will his followers stay loyal?

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The Greyjoys

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After Theon’s (Alfie Allen) treachery at Wintefell, he finds himself betrayed by his Iron Brothers and by his own emotional weakness. But who is holding Theon hostage: his father, House Stark, or House Lannister?

The Tyrells

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As clever as Margery (Natalie Dormer) is at infiltrating King Joffrey’s emotions, she doesn’t seem as politically manipulative as her grandmother Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg), who is working hard to establish even more Tyrell power at court. She may even usurp Cersei in this game.

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The Night’s Watch

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Having gone beyond the Wall into the North, Jon Snow and his fellows encounter clans of Wildlings, who are not only moving South en masse, but who have declared Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds, below) their own King of the North, calling him The King Beyond the Wall.

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To further complicate matters, Jon (Kit Harington) is isolated from the others, and becomes involved with the Wildling Ygritte, who threatens to kill him herself if she discovers any treachery.

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The White Walkers are also making their way south to the Wall, to the terror of the Wildlings and to the men of the Night’s Watch, none of whom knows how to stop this army of  paranormal creatures.

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The Men of the Night’s Watch fear the Wildlings and the White Walkers. The Wildlings fear the White Walkers and something else that’s roaming the woods. Do the White Walkers fear anything at all?

No matter how much the show Game of Thrones may diverge from the series of books on which it’s based, the writing is so strong that anyone can follow the story with ease. Considering how many characters are involved, that’s a major accomplishment. The writing and the acting are powerful, the dialogue important, the characters complex and sophisticated.

HBO’s Game of Thrones is one of the best series since its own Deadwood (created and written by David Milch), and Showtime’s two hit series,  The Tudors (created and written by Michael Hirst) and Penny Dreadful (created and written by John Logan).

Game of Thrones Season 3 is available for purchase for $19.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Rated Very Mature for Graphic Violence, Explicit Sexual Situations, Nudity, Adult Content, and Adult Language.

Related Posts

Love and Betrayal amidst Swordplay,
Dragons, and White Walkers:
Game of Thrones, Season 1

The Summer of Our Discontent:
Game of Thrones, Season 2

The Dead Can’t Hear Us:
Game of Thrones, Season 4

The Last Thing You See Before You Die:
Game of Thrones, Season 5

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Filed under Actors, Books, Game of Thrones, Movies/Television, Review, Videos, Violence